[Disclaimer: Some of us experience anxiety in life and some of us have anxiety disorders. Some of us may feel depressed at times, and some of us may battle depression. There are many overlapping terms in the mental health community that describe symptoms of different disorders, so I want to clarify that “shut down” is a phrase I personally use when facing any of the aforementioned challenges.]
Recently, after reading the news headline of a local tragedy, I felt myself shutting down. The feeling isn’t “simply” sadness. Over the course of a few days, everything—both physically and emotionally—seems to gradually weigh me down. I may lose my appetite or my interest in fun things, and as my brain starts to feel heavy, sad, and in slow motion, my body follows suit.
Whether a symptom of my anxiety or the resounding effects of surviving a pandemic, I know when my body and mind are overwhelmed and overstimulated. A shut down usually lasts a few hours, and they happen a few times a year. Less frequently are the times when I may detach for days or weeks (thankfully, that has not happened in an incredibly long while).
I have learned many coping skills by going to therapy weekly, and my family helps me follow through. I also benefit from medication, having good friends, embracing my purpose as a woman of Faith, and by knowing how to stop, slow down, or shorten a shut down.
I used to think I hated the outdoors until I realized there was a difference between doing outdoor activities and being outside. My friends (as if they don’t know) often throw out the idea of going on a hike. No. I am not going. I do not want to go and do that with anyone. Literally not even Dolly Parton… Actually, probably only Dolly Parton. Otherwise, do not invite me to do an outdoor activity.
What I do want to do sit and write under the stars. I want to listen to a podcast with the sun beaming on my face or lie in the grass while my toddler plays soccer around me. I want to hear—really hear—and simply be. Do not make me go out there and do. Thank you.
Simplify for My Senses
A lot of times I feel overwhelmed because I am overstimulated. I may be dealing with stress I’ve yet to talk about out loud, and then, all of a sudden, I can hear the little one talking, the TV going, my husband’s phone ringing, the microwave beeping. I’m suddenly conscious of every feeling: my socks, too-tight laces in my shoes, the light bulbs are too orange, the shadow from the window is annoying—and any other seemingly trivial issue that could possibly exist.
Whether headed toward shutting down or the anxious feeling that comes before raising my voice, I try to consciously simplify my physical space. I turn off what I can or even just close my eyes for a moment, as it’s likely that my surroundings could push me too far. My husband can recognize it now, too, and has started muting television commercials because he knows that the marketer’s choice to increase the decibels is far too much for me to handle.
Ask for A Hug
I’m quite aware of how my senses affect me. In the nuances of my diagnosis, I deal with something called ‘sensory processing’, and it’s partially why simplifying my senses is crucial to my process. But sensory processing doesn’t always mean to simplify or take away. Sometimes, there are things that we as humans need to gain or add, too.
“Oxytocin is a chemical in our bodies that scientists sometimes call the ‘cuddle hormone.’ This is because its levels rise when we hug, touch, or sit close to someone else” (thanks Healthline).
I love hugs from my humans. I truly could never get enough. (Or I probably could. Who knows?) All I do know is that in the moments leading up to shutting down, a hug is almost always an Uno-reverse card. Albeit, a very slow-motion Uno reverse card. There is no immediate revelation with a pathway to perfection, but it slowly brings a peace and reassurance that is the antithesis of the lies my anxiety frequently tells me.
I’m a millennial facing typical millennial stress, I’m a mental health advocate with my own diagnoses as my primary research, and I am not only growing up—I am truly growing. I have grown. I have decided that my social media feed is for entertainment only and spent hours curating my feed and muting a multitude of things I know could trigger me. I now read educational materials and consume news, which is often tragic, at intentional times instead of leaving the door open to unexpected emotions. I have learned to care for myself, listen to my body, and be patient with my mind, so that I can show up for my life.
We all have moments in life where we want to (or our minds choose for us to) hide from the world. What steps do you take to make sure you are showing up for yourself?Leave a Comment
Beautifully written. Thank you.
Tracey Wright says
I can identify with those anxiety symptoms. I truly turn the TV down or mute it during commercials. I’m a mental health care person with my own dx. I left my Clients home the other day and I had to call my girlfriend to debrief I was in the home too long perception and sensory overload it felt like everything in me was screaming but I got it out of my head ,shed a few tears and proceeded on with my day.
I can’t afford to shut down for long periods of time been there done that. I am also a hugger, love love them especially genuine hugs.
Thanks for the transparency